A Gumbanko student and I painting the Gumbanko Classroom World Mural.

I was in the Peace Corps as a volunteer in Mali, West Africa from 2007-2009. I was able to do many environment, health, and wellness projects, but as an Education in Arts volunteer my favorite projects involved painting!

The high school teacher approached me and asked me to work with local students to complete a world mural. The process was amazing. My students only spoke in Bambara and as I was almost fluent at that point, I was really able to work with them through this process.

Kali, my host brother has an amazing story. In my village art is a luxury, if you were a young man from my village you farmed or did iron work, Kali was born into a family where he farmed. His father was not privy to the idea that he would be assisting with painting, “What would painting have to do with work?” Kali’s father asked in Bambara.

I explained what I thought “quality of life” meant and how Kali was a young man and this would be a good thing to add to a work resume and he might even be able to teach others how to paint in the future with his gift of art, besides, Kali loved to draw and this would be a good stress reliever for him since so much pressure was put on him farming.

The mural was spectacular, we had many people come to the opening and it was a wonderful time to show off our work.

I called Kali in 2010 to see how school, life, and the family was doing. We had a lovely conversation and at the end he added, “Tene (My Bambara Name) I am still painting.” 🙂

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